03 September 2019 | Herpreet Kaur Grewal
The FM contractor that took over Carillion's contract for HM Prison Pentonville has been a "dismal failure" when it comes to expediting major and minor repairs, according to the annual report by the Independent Monitoring Boards.
Government Facilities Services Ltd took over from Carillion in January 2018, however, the prison's FM failures have led to other problems.
For instance, the report published last month states that the delivery of medical care is "sometimes impeded by lengthy maintenance delays and the prison struggles to manage escorts for appointments".
Although the prison has "worked diligently on securing appropriate transfers, with some successes timely and appropriate transfers remain limited by a lack of suitable places in the prison estate".
Maintenance failures also mean that hospital cells are "out of action for weeks". One with a broken hatch (thus unsafe to use) was reported in November 2017 and was still out of use in March 2019, the report states.
That there are also no dedicated rooms on the wings for mental health staff "to use for assessments means interviews take place in difficult conditions with little privacy." The report goes on to state that (external) visitors' facilities are lacking with an acute shortage of lockers or facilities for children. (Although a well-equipped children's play area exists, it lacks heating and PACT supervisory staff and is never used.)
Additionally, visitors take up to an hour to be processed for entry to the internal visits hall. The causes of delay include "just two processing counters and a single working camera (the other broken for over five months)" and there were difficulties in retrieving visitor biometric data, which sometimes requires them to be photographed and fingerprinted again.
Toilet facilities for both visitors and prisoners "remain in urgent need of repair due to horrible sewage smell".
CCTV is not installed in every communal area in the prison, leading to some prisoners feeling unsafe on those landings, adds the report.
A prison service spokesman said: "We are under no illusions as to the scale of the challenge at Pentonville, and the new management team has made significant improvements in the months since this inspection.
"Those changes include a new drugs strategy combining more cell searches with better addiction treatment, providing more money to refurbish cells, and appointing specialist staff members to work on reducing violence.
"In addition, this month the prime minister announced an extra £100 million for airport-style scanners and mobile phone blocking technology to boost security and cut violence in our prisons."